PPC Report Card: ACORN Sales Company

ACORN Sales Company, Inc. requested that Practical eCommerce review its pay-per-click advertising efforts. ACORN sells various notary public supplies, rubber stamps and embossers. Each month, ACORN spends about $1,600 for pay-per-click advertising across Google, Yahoo! and MSN, paying $11 to $25 per order, depending on the search engine.

Report Card Graphic

Account Structure

I would advise PPC advertisers to maximize ad coverage by constantly updating keyword lists and making sure that all keywords are present throughout the three main search engines. However, ACORN’s arrangement of ad groups and campaigns varies across different search engines. I found about 30 ad groups in Google, about 17 in Yahoo!, and 22 in MSN.

It would be wise for ACORN to utilize Microsoft’s newly released Desktop Editor Tool to copy over keywords from Google and Yahoo! and upload directly into its MSN campaign.

The most important part of the account structure is to ensure that keywords, ad groups and campaigns are arranged by their topical relationship. For example, I found the keywords “surveyor stamps” and “review stamps” in the same ad group in ACORN’s Google account — not the optimal way to arrange keywords. People looking for “surveyor stamps” may not necessarily be looking for “review stamps.” ACORN should split different types of stamps into separate ad groups and write targeted ad copy catering to the specific types of stamps available.

Keyword Choices

If we ignore the fact that ACORN’s Yahoo! and MSN accounts are missing ad groups and therefore missing keywords, its portfolio of search terms in Google AdWords is fairly comprehensive. ACORN has done a great job at building an initial keyword list, but it doesn’t look like the list of keywords is updated regularly. For example, “notary supplies” happens to be a top keyword in ACORN’s Google account. But ACORN buries the singular “notary supply” deep in the account, and it is limited to a state-targeted campaign.

Similarly, the second most profitable keyword in the account, “architect seal,” is prominent in the account, but the variation “architects seal” is missing altogether. ACORN could drive down its cost and improve the overall relevancy of search queries in its MSN and Google PPC ads by including all the variations in the three types of matches: broad match, phrase match, and exact match.


It is important to use the top keywords in ad titles and copy, and ACORN gets good marks here. Most of ACORN’s ads mention top keywords in corresponding ad creatives, which helps to improve the search engines’ relevancy ratings. And, when users see their actual search queries repeated in the ads it increases the likelihood of click-throughs.

Landing Pages

Another important component to a PPC campaign is to match keywords to a relevant landing page, and this is another area where ACORN needs improvement. Although ACORN’s ad groups contain very targeted keywords, a click-through will often land on a general product selection page. ACORN would do much better to send users directly to the page that has exactly what they are searching for.

Account Settings

The account settings in ACORN’s pay-per-click accounts are not ideal. Several areas need adjustment.

• Yahoo!’s Content Match and MSN’s Content Distribution should be turned off (unless sales are being generated).

• The geo-targeting settings in the Yahoo! campaign are set up incorrectly. (By default, Yahoo! geo-targets the U.S. and Canada).

• ACORN should be consistent in its use of negative keywords as well as regular keywords across all search engine campaigns.

• ACORN is running MSN ads worldwide because MSN’s default setting is set to “all countries.”

In two areas, ACORN’s account settings are fine:

• ACORN does not run Google Search Network and Google Content Network in the same campaign.

• ACORN does include some basic negative keywords that allows it to filter out irrelevant traffic.

Request a pay-per-click report card evaluation by emailing

PPC Report Card

ACORN Sales Company, Inc.

Account Structure C

Keywords B

Relevancy B+

Landing Pages C

Account Settings D

Overall GPA C+

Greg Laptevsky
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